LANESBORO, Minn. (KTTC) -- A World War II veteran is returning a Japanese sword he's had for nearly 70-years. Orval Amdahl served as a Marine Captain in Japan just after the atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was there that the Lanesboro man obtained the sword. Now, after a lengthy search for the owner, the 94-year-old veteran will return the sword to the owner's grandson this weekend.
Amdahl was barely out of high school, when he enlisted in the Marines in 1942. He found himself in Nagasaki just weeks after the bomb was dropped on the city on August 9, 1945. According to Amdahl, had the bomb not been dropped, he "would not be here today."
"It [Nagasaki] was too well guarded," says Amdahl. "I consider the bomb an omen of a little bit of luck."
Amdahl's "luck" followed him while he was stationed in Japan. Before receiving orders to move to other parts of the defeated country, Amdahl and his troops were given a task. They were taken to a warehouse full of weapons Japanese soldiers had surrendered and were told to select "a souvenir."
Amid a "mountain of swords," Amdahl spotted one encased in leather and he plucked it from the pile. While his comrades reached for more ornate sabers, Amdahl says he thought this one reminded him of "something you'd see on an officer riding a horse." And while his wasn't the shiniest of the swords at first glance, Amdahl later noticed many of the other "souvenirs" turned out to be "rusty" or "only ceremonial."
"When I pulled the blade out of this one, the eyes sort of popped out of everybody," says Amdahl. "This was a work of art-I was lucky."
Amdahl says he was "luckiest" when he returned safely home to Minnesota. He married his wife, Marie, and together they raised 4 children. As the years passed and the war became a distant memory, Amdahl continued to care for his "souvenir" and describes himself as its "foster father."
A few years ago, he began his search for the owner of the sword. Two wooden plaques with Japanese writing were attached to the saber. Using the translated information, Amdahl attempted to find the owner, but to no avail. It wasn't until writer, Caren Stelson, began interviewing the veteran for a book about Nagasaki that he was able to find any leads. With Stelson's help, Amdahl located the grandson of the owner and immediately wrote the man.
Tadahiro Motomura wrote back.
He described to Amdahl his grandfather's service in the war and wrote that he had heard about the sword many times from his mother. The family assumed the sword was lost during the surrender. His grandfather passed away in the 1950's without ever knowing what happened to his saber.
"Even though I got it as a souvenir, it's not really a souvenir," says Amdahl. "It should be back home where it belongs."
On Saturday, Amdahl and Motomura will meet in St. Paul-also known as the sister city of Nagasaki. At a ceremony at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Amdahl will return the sword.
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